It’s been a long summer. We’ve all spent our share of days, with rod and reel in hand, catching more sunburns than bass. Relief is on the way, though, as more frequent fronts and cooler nights have water temps falling on your local fishery. Baitfish are on the move, and the words “fall feed bag” are starting to float around our heads. There’s a storm coming, and bass fishermen everywhere are ready.
Dramatic temperature drops that trigger fall feeding usually arrive with a storm
of their own. Wind. Intermittent drizzle. Rain. Downpour. Sleet. Snow. The bass don't stop for foul weather, and neither should you. We recently picked the brains of reigning Bassmaster Classic Champ Jordan Lee and his brother Matt — both hot off back-to-back top 12 finishes on a windy, stormy Lake Champlain and Lake St. Clair — on everything from how to prepare before launching your boat in foul weather to tactics that’ll help you boat more bass when conditions turn snotty.
In recent memory, neither Matt nor Jordan can remember a time when an Elite Series practice has been called off. In their world, fishing and tournament practice are truly rain-or-shine events. To prepare for the worst, the two spend extra time on boat prep.
Matt has made significant changes to his preparation after his first season fishing the Opens:
“Back when I fished the Opens, I sometimes didn't have a clue as to how a lake would be affected by high winds or storms,” says the older Lee. “When I was running my old boat, there were a few occasions after a long day in rough water I’d find nuts and bolts laying around the bottom of the boat with no clue where they’d come from.
[Gerald] Swindle also helped me a lot. He turned me onto some course screws that he used that hold up better to a beating. On top of the screw change, I make note to go through my boat and tighten everything I can before heading out on rough water. A ten-minute check can add years to the life of your equipment.”
Both Lee’s rely on heavy-duty hardware. Jordan walked us through a checklist of additional equipment that has become standard on his rig.
“Technology gets better year after year. Some items, like the T-H Marine Kong Mount, are a must for keeping my graphs rock solid,” he says. “Having a trolling motor that’s got the right amount of power for your size boat is also important. Some of them, like the new Minn Kota Ultrex, have the Spot-Lock feature, which is a huge help on windy days.
“Then there are the precautionary items. My boat always has two bilge pumps in case one fails. I’ve also got two straps on my trolling motor. I’ve learned the hard way about the importance of having backups.”
Your driving style can make a big difference, too. Both anglers say keeping it slow is the safest way to navigate through rough water. Right around 20 mph keeps thing slow enough to prevent too much wear and tear.
An angler’s comfort level can make or break a day of fishing. Give the same attention to your clothing as you do your boat and you’ll be able to stay on the water longer.
“As far as rain gear goes, it’s getting better and better every year,” says Matt. “My Carhartt Force Extreme Shoreline Angler rain suit does a great job of keeping me dry. If I plan my layers right it works just as well in a hot summer storm as it does in the cold winter months.”
However, the best rain gear in the world can’t help you if you fall in the lake or take a wave over the bow. Even in the summer, being wet all day can prevent you from focusing on the fish. Elite Series anglers can’t afford the time it takes to get off the water to change clothes. For that reason, both Lee brothers take a full change of clothes along with them, even during practice. They bring everything from socks and underwear to spare jeans and an extra Force t-shirt.
“It’s all about a backup plan,” Jordan says. “When I’ve got extra time left in practice I need to be ready to capitalize on every minute I can. There’s no room for error in being wet and cold.”